Hollywood Contenders – Looking at potential Best Picture contenders: SEPT 2017

As I’ve always said, it’s one thing to read early Academy Award predictions to see what folks like myself think will happen at the end of the year, but it’s another thing entirely to actually know which films will be in contention. To that end, once a week (or maybe twice a week in certain situations) for the next month or so I’ll be again running down some of the major contenders in each Oscar category. Basically, the format will have me saying a few words about what/who I feel are the top tier contenders right now in said categories, along with a longer list afterwards of many of the other hopefuls. Consider this a sort of cheat sheet for you all.

Today I’m starting with the big one, of course…Best Picture.

Here are the ten films that I have right now cracking the Best Picture lineup:

1. Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan’s war epic sits in the pole position right now, partly due to being one of the known knowns in a season full of unknowns. Likely a big across the board player, it would be silly not to currently have it at least high up on your Best Picture list, if not the top spot. Until proven otherwise, bet against this one at your own peril.

2. The Post – The big X factor this year is Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers film, which is rushing to be done by the end of the year. Normally, the combination of Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep would be irresistible for Oscar, especially considering the timely nature of the material. If the quick turnaround doesn’t negate any quality, look for it to heavily contend…

3. Downsizing – Can Alexander Payne find his biggest success yet with a high concept comedy? If the first reviews for this Venice Film Festival opener are to be believed, the answer is yes. Early raves call this perhaps Payne’s best movie to date, which is incredibly high praise. Yesterday brought a potential laden Teaser Trailer as well, so it’s first beginning to ride a wave of positivity.

4. Wonder Wheel – Woody Allen is hit or miss these days, but the New York Film Festival seems to think his latest movie is something special. Closing out NYFF, Allen’s new flick is a New York set period piece, with a supposedly excellent Kate Winslet in the lead. If this is vintage Woody…watch out. This could be his biggest player since Midnight in Paris.

5. Darkest Hour – The most traditional looking Best Picture contender this year is this Winston Churchill biopic. There’s certainly all eyes on Gary Oldman in that role, but the overall product still remains to be seen. Joe Wright has gotten a film nominated in this category before, so it appears like another safe call to make right now. Early reviews will be key.

6. Call Me By Your Name – 2017 is a time far more friendly to same sex relationships than years past. That could benefit this Sundance Film Festival success story, which has seen nothing but raves since January. This might be an acting player (Armie Hammer, maybe?) more than anything else, but if there’s a Sundance nominee in the lot, it may well be this one.

7. Phantom Thread – Paul Thomas Anderson has a mysterious project on his hands, but one that will have tons of buzz due to it purportedly being the final role of Daniel Day-Lewis’ career. Set in the fashion world, it’s not due until the absolute end of the year, so pinpoint this as a last minute contender or pretender. We’ll just have to sit tight for a while…

8. Last Flag Flying – At the upcoming New York Film Festival, Richard Linklater will unveil this road trip dramedy to the world. Steve Carell appears really strong here, but it’ll be interesting to see if Linklater can get back into the Picture lineup after Boyhood finally got him the respect he deserves. A pseudo sequel to The Last Detail seems like an unlikely choice, but stranger things have happened, right?

9. Molly’s Game – Scribe Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with this intense looking drama. Star Jessica Chastain could dominate the Best Actress race, but all eyes will be on Sorkin and if he can make this soar on his own. It could go either way, but for the moment, it seems foolish to bet against Sorkin. Time will tell though, that’s for sure.

10. Detroit – The other known quantity so far this year is Kathryn Bigelow’s latest collaboration with Mark Boal. Reviews were strong, though the box office has so far left a bit to be desired. It’ll be a few months before the precursors decide if this one hangs on or not, so it won’t be in this tenth spot for long. Either it’ll show upward mobility or fall off in favor of something like Battle of the Sexes, The Big Sick, or The Greatest Showman.

Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my commentary) for Best Picture:

11. Battle of the Sexes
12. The Big Sick
13. The Greatest Showman
14. Suburbicon
15. The Disaster Artist
16. Wonderstruck
17. Mudbound
18. Blade Runner 2049
19. Roman Israel, Esq
20. mother!

Finally, here are ten more to give us a top 30 to cull from, sans commentary as well:

21. The Shape of Water
22. Goodbye Christopher Robin
23. The Florida Project
24. Stronger
25. All the Money in the World
26. Lady Bird
27. Wind River
28. The 15:17 to Paris
29. Chappaquiddick
30. Wonder Woman

Well, that’s what the Best Picture race could be made up of this time around. Stay tuned in a few days/next week for my look at the Best Director race!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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